The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


August 10, 2010

ELCA: 4.5 million members, $2.6 billion in offerings in 2009

The ELCA reported a baptized membership of 4,543,037 in 10,348 congregations in 2009. The ELCA Office of the Secretary and ELCA Research and Evaluation extract these numbers from analysis of membership and income data in parochial reports submitted by ELCA congregations each year.

ELCA Secretary David D. Swartling said in a report that data indicate a 2009 decline of 90,850 members and 48 congregations-slightly more than membership declines in the preceding two years.

Total receipts for ELCA congregations exceeded $2.6 billion in 2009, down 2.94 percent from 2008, according to the report. However, reported total assets of ELCA congregations actually grew in 2009 by 1.2 percent to $20.9 billion, the report said. Funds held in endowments and memorials also increased to almost $1.2 billion in 2009. Average giving per baptized member grew 2.8 percent in 2009 to $492, the ELCA secretary reported.

Swartling said that 2009 was a turbulent year nationally and internationally, and that "the ELCA certainly had its share of turmoil."

Despite the challenges, "ELCA members have continued to be remarkably steadfast in their giving, and many ELCA congregations remain surprisingly healthy from an economic perspective," Swartling said. "We must not forget that by the world's standards we remain a wealthy church that must continue to look for innovative ways to translate that wealth into effective ministry through this whole church to God's world."

The secretary's report said the average number of people in worship in ELCA congregations declined slightly from the previous year. A total of 1,289,967 people or 28.39 percent of baptized ELCA members attended weekly worship in 2009. That number was 1,330,709 (28.71 percent of baptized members) in 2008, the report said.

For the first time parochial reports asked congregations to provide information about the number of people participating in the congregation's ministry, not simply members, Swartling said. "Our hope is that we will be able to develop more meaningful data in the future based on participation," the ELCA secretary said. "It also will allow us to link congregations more effectively to take advantage of particular strengths in their ministries."

In this new category congregations reported 2,527,941 people participating in congregational activities. More than 35 percent of ELCA congregations reported African American/Black participation and 32 percent reported Latino participation.

The number of congregations reporting more than 5 percent multicultural membership has also risen, the report said. "Many ELCA congregations continue to be proactive in their efforts to be intentionally inclusive," Swartling added.

Click here to view a summary of annual membership data.

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